Deepika Deshpande Amin is soaring in the success of the newly released Fan. This unconventional actor has been Shah Rukh Khan’s buddy from his theatre days. Deepika’s role as SRK’s mother has been very well received by audiences. So much so that she seems to have more screen presence than the other leading ladies. Deepika is on seventh heaven these days. Not only is she celebrating Fan but also the fact that it marks her hat-trick with Hindi films. She had a major hit in Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania and a hit in Raanjhana.
Born in Mumbai she has been acting on stage, in films and television for several years. She has also been part of hit films like Bewakoofiyan, Rajjo, Well Done Abba and The Rough Book.
Her performance in the serial Siyaasat on the Epic Channel gained her critical acclaim. She has worked in quite a few popular TV serials like Junoon, Samvidhaan by Shyam Benegal, 9 Malabar Hill, Tashan-e-Ishq and Safar – winning awards and nominations.
She lives with her husband (corporate field) and 16-year-old daughter in Mumbai.
Tell us something about your childhood.
I grew up in Delhi. My father was in the Air Force. He retired as an Air Vice Marshall. We lived in Dhaula Kuan and later S.P. Marg in the Defence Officers Apartments. It was a very safe and happy place, full of friends and kind neighbours. Evenings would be spent going for long walks around the colony with my friends. In the summer, I would always be found in the DK club swimming pool. I was quite a water baby and a good swimmer.
Full educational qualifications?
I studied in Loreto Convent School, Delhi Cantonment and later Mt St Mary’s. Later I did Economics Honours from Lady Shri Ram College. I was a good student and always did very well. I was also very involved and active in drama and music in school and college.
Were you trained as an actor?
My training ground was Barry Johns’ TAG – Theatre Action Group in Delhi. I was part of his group for many years. Theatre workshops, plays, backstage, lights, music and of course acting …I’ve done it all. My co actors in TAG were people like Shah Rukh Khan, Manoj Bajpayee and Rituraj. We were all young then. Some of us were still in college, some had just passed out a few years earlier. We travelled all over India with our plays. We had great fun then, but today I realize what a great learning experience it was and how fortunate I was to have started my career with them.
Each director I worked with has shaped me as a performer. I’ve been performing with Lillete Dubey’s theatre group for almost ten years now. We have travelled all over the world with our plays. Performing for an international audience is a thrill.
I am presently attending Vijaya Mehta’s theatre workshop. Stalwarts like her have so much to teach us. It’s exciting to be a student again. An actor never stops learning.
What did your parents say when you told them that you are going to take up acting as a career given that the field is so uncertain?
My parents were the ones to encourage me into this field. Seeing my interest in school dramatics they enrolled me in Sushma Seth’s Children’s Creative Theatre Group. That was my first experience of almost professional theatre and I’ve never looked back since. I moved to Bombay to pursue acting as a career after my first serial Farmaan was already a hit. I already had a few roles in hand. So the move was not a leap into the unknown. My parents were supportive as always and helped me out by finding me a PG with a sweet, kind Aunty. I knew they were always there if I needed them.
Which was your first movie? How did you get it?
My first movie role was a small one in Ketan Mehta’s film Sardar. It was about the life of Sardar Patel with Paresh Rawal in the lead role. I played a freedom fighter named Susheela Nayar. It was a noticeable role, with a few good scenes. I really don’t know how I got the role. I was living in Delhi and the film was being shot there. I got a call to meet Ketan Mehta one day and I landed the part. I guess his casting team must have seen or heard of my plays. I never asked him how and why he chose me! It was a good critically acclaimed film. My first big blockbuster movie role was Raanjhana – where I played Sonam’s mother. I was called by Aanand Rai’s casting team. They had seen my serials and plays. I tested for the role and bagged it. That led to other films like Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and most recently Fan. Work generates more work.
Which was your first TV serial? How did you get it?
Now that’s a funny story. Lekh Tandon had seen my plays and I had met him a couple of times in Delhi. I told him I wanted to work with him, if not as an actress then as an assistant director. I had come to Mumbai for a wedding when I received a call to meet him. I remember racing from Colaba to Juhu where he was shooting. He chatted with me a bit and asked his assistant to take me to meet Gul Anand, his producer. So I was taken all the way back to Peddar Road where Gul Anand narrated the story of Farmaan to me. It took me a while to realize that he was offering me the lead role! Soon I was on my way to Hyderabad where the serial was shot. The serial was a beautiful love story and the pairing of Kanwaljit as Azhar Nawab and myself as Aiman Bi became very popular. I won the Most Promising Newcomer award and was nominated for Best Actress. Soon more offers started to roll in and I decided to shift to Mumbai.
Tell us about your current projects.
I’m presently doing a serial on Zee called Tashan-e- Ishq where I play the hero’s Mom. I’m doing shows of my plays Boiled Beans on Toast and Wedding Album both by Girish Karnad. I’m also in the play August Osage County directed by Lillete Dubey. I just completed shooting of a film in Shimla. It’s called Dil Jo Na Keh Saka directed by Naresh Lalwani.
What do you do when not working in front of the camera?
I love reading. Even during shoots I withdraw to my make-up room and bury my nose in a book. I recently finished Amitav Ghosh’s Trilogy. I am now starting on William Dalrymple’s Return of a King.
Music is my passion. I’ve been learning Hindustani light classical for several years. Whenever I have time off, I try to attend a class. Sadly, I’m not regular with my Riaaz. I used to learn the guitar and piano, so I strum a bit and sing for fun when I get the time.
Apart from that I spend time with my husband and daughter. We catch up on the latest movies. We love to travel and have visited exciting exotic places like Jordan, Israel, Vietnam, Burma, Turkey and Argentina.
What do you see 10 years hence?
Still acting, grandma roles maybe! Still singing, still travelling and still looking forward to life.